Grin and bare
Once terrified of public speaking, underwear model Matt Wilson is now at ease joining the Neighbours cast as a male stripper, writes Shannon Molloy
Many of Matt Wilson’s recent jobs seem to involve getting his kit off in one way or another, whether it’s modelling underwear or posing shirtless on a building site.
The 26-year-old is continuing that trend, having just debuted on Neighbours as a gay male stripper.
“He’s a very confident young guy,” Wilson laughs. “There isn’t much that fazes him. He loves life and has an ingrained desire to make everyone around him happy.”
His character Aaron Brennan — the middle brother of local cop Mark and resident bad boy Tyler — arrived in Erinsborough via a booking to strip at a racy bingo night at local pub The Waterhole.
That colourful and abrupt entrance is pretty fitting for Wilson, who just five short years ago had a similarly unexpected nudge towards fame.
Back then, he was a humble and anonymous carpenter, toiling away on building sites in Sydney, and never imagined a life in front of the camera.
“I won this competition called Australia’s Hottest Tradie in 2010. There was no real skill involved in that, but it gave me this platform all of a sudden. As part of it, I had to do some presenting, appearance and speaking
The trouble was that Wilson battled extreme anxiety issues, preferring to shun the limelight because of crippling stage fright.
“It was pretty shocking. Standing up in front of people, even a small group, I’d feel so anxious and just utterly terrified. … It’s horrible. My voice would go all monotone. I’d freeze (and) feel like I was choking.
“It wasn’t nice. Even having to give a speech at a wedding was nerve-racking. I just couldn’t do it.”
The idea of performing had always appealed to him though, so Wilson sought about confronting his fears and making the most of the new opportunities in front of him.
“I took myself off to NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Arts) to do some classes. … They teach you how to own the stage and feel at ease.”
It worked — so much so that one of the teachers suggested Wilson try his hand at acting. There were a few small roles to follow, including in Underbelly: The Golden Mile and travel show Getaway.
But the biggest thing to come out of being declared the nation’s hottest tradesman was a phone call from popular undies brand, aussieBum.
“They asked me to model for them and I thought, why not? The shoot was outside in a public park and it was very overwhelming,” Wilson says. “I felt naked. I mean, I pretty much almost was.”
He has since appeared in various international ad campaigns and become something of a pin-up.
“It’s a fun job. I kind of enjoy that nervous energy that comes with it and the hilarity of standing around outside in my jocks,” he says.
Wilson hung up his tool belt earlier this year to put all of his energy into chasing his big acting break on Neighbours.
A few months in, he describes the TV set as “the friendliest workplace ever”. He has particularly bonded with the actors who play his onscreen brothers Scott McGregor and Travis Burns, who portray Mark and Tyler.
“We clicked straight away,” Wilson says. “While I was waiting to hear whether I got the job, I was watching the show religiously and seeing those guys on screen was awesome.”
But the job meant relocating from Sydney to Melbourne, leaving behind a group of mates and his long-term girlfriend.
“It has been a huge adjustment. I won’t lie. But I’m absolutely loving it so far,” he says. “How often do people get to turn their passion into a career?”
“Even having to give
a speech at a wedding was nerveracking. I just couldn’t do it”
MATT WILSON ON ANXIETY ISSUES
NEIGHBOURS, ELEVEN, WEEKDAYS, 6.30PM
Matt Wilson in his new role
and as a model (below) for undies brand aussieBum.